Thursday, May 31, 2012: How to Remember Terezín

Terezín Music Foundation 2012

At the ceremony (from left): Robert Zimmerman, US Embassy Public Affairs; Zuzana Růžičková; Mark Ludwig; Martin Rosol

Terezín: How to Remember, Honor, Inspire

Terezín. The mere mention of the name of this former Nazi work camp north of Prague can raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

How, then, are we to react to the music composed by the artists imprisoned there, and the musicians who performed it? How can we in 2012 appropriately recognize their their example, the gift they left us – without turning performance of their music into a maudlin remembrance or, at the other extreme, the site itself merely a lurid tourism destination?

The Terezín Music Foundation is a Boston non-profit organization honoring the creative spirit and legacy of those musicians who continued to compose, teach, and perform even in these extremely trying and dangerous conditions.

But more than just performing their works internationally, the Foundation also sponsors new compositions by today’s emerging composers, and infuses a fresh spirit into the legacy by creating opportunities for cross-cultural experiences.

And cross-cultural means not only bringing together people of different nations, but of different means of cultural expression.

For example, the Foundation commissioned two new chamber works for premieres at a Prague Spring concert May 15 – one by a Czech composer, Vít Zouhar; the other by an Argentine-American composer, Pablo Ortiz.

The new Vedem Award is a sculpture by Czech-American glass artist Martin Rosol. The award, tying in literature, is named for the underground magazine created by boys at Terezín, and was presented to world-renown Czech harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková May 16.

American Mark Ludwig, director of the Foundation, noting that Mrs Růžičková was also in Terezín, said her presence at the award ceremony “adds a real depth and dimension to the evening … she knew these composers and incredibly gifted artists. She was part of this special creativity, this special determination to create in an environment that, I daresay, most of us could not even imagine possible.”

Accepting the award, Mrs Růžičková modestly said she knows she “represents the idea of so many who did not survive,” and therefore deemed it both an “unexpected and undeserved” honor. She designated the award as homage to the determination to create despite hardship.

The Terezín Foundation and its activities is making a positive contribution to the Terezín legacy by helping classical music itself move forward, even in these times of economic hardship, rather than risk getting enshrined in the events of a dreadful albeit inspiring past. — oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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